Lady Catherine did not oppose Elizabeth directly. Neither had she confronted Darcy about the young woman. Her nephew was much too sensible to contemplate anything beyond a mere dalliance with someone so beneath him in consequence. She comforted herself with the notion that men will, after all, be men. Soon, her nephew would realize that anything beyond a meaningless flirtation with that impertinent young woman was an impossibility, else he would face the scorn of his friends, his family, and his peers.
My nephew would not dare put his reputation in jeopardy.
No longer willing to risk anything where Miss Elizabeth Bennet’s motives were concerned, her ladyship had taken matters into her own hands to see to it that she and her family would meet with the derision of every decent family in England. Simply sending her away from Kent would have been a less costly solution, but she could not make certain that the young woman would not throw herself into Darcy’s path once she was once again in town and beyond Lady Catherine’s reach.
It was not in her ladyship’s nature not to prepare for every possible impediment to the successful execution of all her wishes, and she resolved that her solution was the best one for everyone who was in any way connected with her. By now, her scheme was well underway were she to rely upon the confirmation from her sources. There was nothing or no one capable of stopping events from progressing to a conclusion Lady Catherine deemed satisfactory.
Forcing her nephew to do what she expected of him by marrying Anne was another matter entirely. Lady Catherine and Darcy sat across from each other in the drawing room—their conversation long overdue.
“You can be at no loss, Nephew, to understand the reason I have summoned you today for a private audience. Your own heart, your own sense of right and wrong, must tell you why.”
“Lady Catherine, if you mean to berate me for not making an offer of marriage to Anne then you are wasting your time and mine.”
“Darcy, you know as well as anyone that it was the favorite wish of your mother’s as well as mine that you and Anne would one day be married. We planned the union while the two of you were in your cradles. Everyone in our family desires this union—the combining of two of the grandest estates in all of England. Everyone in our family expects it.”
“Not everyone,” Darcy said under his breath.
Her ladyship leaned in closer. “What is it that you say, Nephew?”
“I said not everyone desires or expects such a union.”
“Who would dare oppose me in this?”
“If you would take the time to consult your daughter on the matter then surely you would know that Anne does not want this.”
“Silence! You speak nonsense! My Anne is a good daughter. She is loyal to her family. She will do whatever I tell her to do.” With that, Lady Catherine rose from her seat in a manner befitting a queen arising from her throne and crossed the room as quickly as a woman of her age could manage. After pulling the bell to summon a servant, she slowly spun about on her heels and faced her nephew with a broad smile of self-satisfaction.
“What are you about, Lady Catherine?”
“You shall know soon enough.”
Moments later, a servant walked into the room. Lady Catherine said, “Pray find my daughter, Miss de Bourgh, and inform her that I desire her presence in the drawing room post-haste.”
The servant bowed and quickly escaped the room. Lady Catherine sauntered over to the ornately adorned mantelpiece.
“I fail to see the point in sending for Anne,” Darcy stated.
“My purpose is perfectly straightforward. You posit that my daughter does not desire this union, and I strongly contend that she does. The time has come for Anne to have her own share of the conversation. If what you say is true, then I will know precisely how to act.”
“Does that mean you will desist with this preposterous notion that Anne and I will marry each other?”
With a confident air, Lady Catherine replied, “I only say this; let us wait and hear what my daughter has to say.”
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